Why have beware of dog signs?
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Are you legally liable
for your dog's actions?
 
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Are you legally liable for your dog's actions?

As always, legal liability depends on your state and local legislation, but the short answer is: yes, sometimes. If your dog attacks someone once, you may be liable, and if it happens repeatedly, you almost certainly are.

As every dog owner knows, every pooch has its own personality, and unfortunately, some are friendlier than others – some can be aggressive, and a small minority get into the habit of attacking humans, whether because it thinks people are violating its property or because they misinterpret people’s gestures as hostile. These behaviors can be aggravated by puphood trama – dogs are extremely intelligent, and like humans, they can bear the emotional scars of mistreatment for a long time.

Custom Dog Signs
Like humans, dogs who are mistreated when they're young can suffer lasting psychological damage.
Many states have what are known as “dog-bite statutes,” according to which you are liable for any injury caused to the victim if your dog bites anyone, whether it’s the first time or the fifteenth. These statutes don’t require the victim to prove that the dog’s owner should have known that the dog might have attacked, and failed to prevent it – they assume that the risk of having to pay a dog bite victim is automatically taken on by any dog owner, making these states among the most likely to result in losses. Of course, walking onto someone else’s property and poking their dog with a stick won’t make for a successful lawsuit – the victim has to prove that when they were attacked, they were there lawfully. Dog bite statutes of one sort or another are applicable in AL, AR, CA, CO, CT, DC, FL, HI, IL, IN, IA, KY, LA, ME, MA, MI, MN, MO, NE, NH, NJ, OH, OK, PA, RI, SC, UT, WA, WV, and WI.

One-bite states are those in which owners are held responsible only when owners should have had some idea that their dog might attack. OR, NV, ID, WY, NM, TX, KA, SD, ND, MO, AR, MS, VA, MA, NC, MD and VT are all one-bite states. In these states, owners can’t necessarily be held responsible for their dog’s misdeeds if they didn’t have reason to expect them, but dogs who have a history of biting trigger an increased duty to warn. Until your dog bites for the first time, though, your responsibility is significantly decreased.

Sometimes dog owners ignore the danger that an unwatched dog might pose to the public, and they take dog off its leash in a park on the assumption that it will be friendly… but the dog has other plans. Depending on circumstances, in these cases, the owner has been negligent, and may be held liable for financial damages in any state.Of course, the trainers of service dogs like those found on K-9 squads are exempt from liability as long as they’re doing their job properly.

If your dog is overly playful or aggressive and you’re worried that it might hurt someone, posting signs on your property is one way to head off allegations of failure to warn. (In other words, if someone invades your property and is attacked, they can’t say you didn’t tell them that there was a potentially dangerous dog waiting for them!)

In all cases, the easiest solution is to make sure your dog is properly trained before it leaves the house!
 
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